Sambar : The Traditional Way

Srilatha Main Dish, Sides, South Indian Leave a Comment

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Sambar : The Traditional Way
Sambar! Just the name conjures visions of rice, with steaming ladlefuls of sambar over it. This may be the dish that Thamizh people are most associated with, culturally, all over India, especially with regards to vegetarian cuisine. The four (five now) states that collectively form South India (yes, there are 5 states, not one, there are 4 languages spoken and we are not all Madrasis) namely Tamil Nadu (Tamil), Kerala (Malayalam), Karnataka (Kannada), and Andhra and Telengana (Telugu) all have their own versions of this most basic of our cuisines. Even in Tamil Nadu, there may be slight regional differences. But, we all agree in our love for this dish. This version is the most commonly made recipe in our family, and involves toasting and grinding fresh spices, instead of using a readymade sambar powder. So this is a bit more involved, but totally worth it!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes including cooking dhal
Servings
servings
Ingredients
  • 1 lemon sized ball Tamarind pulp soak in warm water
  • 2 cups vegetables I used frozen drumsticks in this recipe. The flavor is amazing, and is one of the top choices for sambar in our family, next to shallots.
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • 1.5 cups cooked toor dhal/thuvaram paruppu
  • 1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
Ingredients For The Spice Paste
  • 2 tbsp toor dhal
  • 2 tbsp Coriander seeds
  • 6-8 hot red chilies
  • 3/4 tsp fenugreek seeds/methi/vendhayam
  • 1/2 cup grated fresh/frozen coconut
  • 2 sprigs Curry leaves
Seasoning Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp Oil/ghee use oil to keep it vegan; reserve 1 tsp for roasting the spices
  • 1 tsp Mustard seeds
  • 2 red chilies
  • 1/2 tsp Hing/asafoetida
  • 2 - 4 Curry leaves
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes including cooking dhal
Servings
servings
Ingredients
  • 1 lemon sized ball Tamarind pulp soak in warm water
  • 2 cups vegetables I used frozen drumsticks in this recipe. The flavor is amazing, and is one of the top choices for sambar in our family, next to shallots.
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • 1.5 cups cooked toor dhal/thuvaram paruppu
  • 1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
Ingredients For The Spice Paste
  • 2 tbsp toor dhal
  • 2 tbsp Coriander seeds
  • 6-8 hot red chilies
  • 3/4 tsp fenugreek seeds/methi/vendhayam
  • 1/2 cup grated fresh/frozen coconut
  • 2 sprigs Curry leaves
Seasoning Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp Oil/ghee use oil to keep it vegan; reserve 1 tsp for roasting the spices
  • 1 tsp Mustard seeds
  • 2 red chilies
  • 1/2 tsp Hing/asafoetida
  • 2 - 4 Curry leaves
Instructions
Prep
  1. Cook toor dhal and keep ready
  2. Extract a medium thick liquid out of the soaked tamarind (puli). Should make about 1.5 - 2 cups, don't add too much water or the sambar will be too thin. This sambar is meant to be eaten with rice and should be somewhat thick, about the consistency of store-bought buttermilk
  3. Gather all the spice ingredients, chop the vegetables using. I made this sambar with frozen drumsticks (murungai kai) and forgot to take a picture!
Main
  1. Once the prep is done, sambar comes together fairly quickly and in about 20 minutes. To start, boil the vegetables in the tamarind extract, with half of the salt, and a pinch of turmeric
  2. Heat 1 tsp of the oil in a small pan
  3. Add the methi seeds/vendhayam/fenugreek first, and toast until they turn reddish, being careful not to burn them. If you do burn them, toss it and start fresh for it'll completely ruin the flavor and the taste
  4. Now add the toor dhal (not cooked), coriander seeds listed in the "Ingredients For The Spice Paste" and fry them a little bit
  5. Add the chilies and saute until they get a sheen, and look polished.
  6. Add the coconut and fry until it turns toasted, golden and the aroma fills your kitchen
  7. At this point, optionally add 1 medium roughly quartered ripe tomato, and warm it
  8. Turn the heat off; blend after this mix is completely cooled, to a smooth paste, adding the curry leaves fresh to the blender
  9. Once the tamarind extract has boiled for about 10 minutes, add the cooked dhal, and the spice paste
  10. Add the remaining salt, and boil until the flavors blend, about 7-8 minutes
  11. Take off the heat
  12. In the same pan you used to fry the spices, add the remaining oil/ghee and season, starting with mustard seeds, and when they pop, add the rest
  13. Pour over the sambar
  14. Enjoy with piping hot rice!
Recipe Notes

Vegetables:

I used drumsticks which lend an amazing flavor to the sambar. Shallots or pearl onions are the next best choices in our family. Other vegetables that work really good individually or in combination are potatoes (cubed), carrots (sliced into rounds), radish (sliced into rounds, strong flavor is not popular with everyone), and yellow pumpkin

 

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